Ava had something of a secret. When she was in her early teens, she got a pair of unusual eyeglasses. When she looked through them, she gained a supernatural ability: She would see evidence for any truth she pondered. She would think to herself things such as, What really happened to Amelia Earhart? Immediately, she would see all of what actually happened to that poor woman, playing out in vivid scenes before her eyes. Naturally, she grew somewhat obsessed with using this ability. She’d spend all day wearing her glasses and pondering this and that — questioning history, politics, physics, philosophy, and whatever else was out there for her curiosity to explore.
Repeatedly, when she was younger, she would have people try on the glasses and ask them what they saw, but to every other person that tried them, they were nothing more than run-of-the-mill glasses. She desperately wanted to tell people about their magical abilities, but she knew how it would sound to them. It was completely unbelievable to her as well. Sometimes she doubted the veracity of what was being shown to her, or whether or not she was even sane and the glasses existed at all, but time and time again, she’d put them to the test on theories that were provable without the glasses, and whatever the glasses showed to have happened did indeed happen. And the doubt itself, the propensity to question whether or not she was actually capable of seeing what no one else could see, reassured her that she was approaching the subject with lucidity and evenhandedness. Still, she knew she wouldn’t have believed another person who claimed to have magic glasses, so how could she ever share it with someone else?
For a human being, nothing is quite real until it is shared with others. Having this power just made her feel lonely. What difference was there between knowing the truth and not knowing it, if it was just trapped inside, incapable of being communicated in full? She might as well have been a statue with such abilities; it would have made no difference.
Once or twice, with people that she was close to and comfortable with, she’d venture to say it out loud — to speak on what she could see. She’d say, “You know, I can see things with these glasses that others cannot, things they’ll never be able to know in full. Anything I think about, it shows me the truth of it.” But she always felt somewhat unclean giving this explanation. She knew very well how it would be received. The face of the hearer never failed to confirm this to her. The cheeks rose up as if moving to frown, the eyes squinted slightly, the brow furrowed, and the face of incredulity and confusion was complete. It became as loathsome a facial expression for her as one of rage or disgust.
She’d get frustrated when discussing things because whomever she spoke to simply couldn’t comprehend the depth of her understanding. They had no access to such insights, and what they believed was so obviously wrong to her, but still they held to their falsehoods with a fealty that surpassed even her enthusiasm for the truth. Frustratingly, she was often unable to communicate what she knew so thoroughly. Just as any of us can imagine and design in our mind’s eye the most beautiful of paintings, while the hand would be so clumsy in trying to actually paint it that it’d bare no resemblance to what we’d envisioned, the truth in her mind was clear as day but her words — and possibly words as a whole — were incapable of fully capturing it.
How can I ever make them see the truth, she thought to herself. She attempted to be more persuasive, to see the world as they saw it, to explain things from basic fundamentals and move up from there. She ordered her arguments in as precise a logical sequence as she could, yet they’d dismiss this absolute truth with something nonsensical, or unrelated, or just plain rude. And many times others listening on would end up siding with the person she was debating.
She recognized that what convinced others was often popularity and how likable the speaker was, or whether or not they spoke with conviction, or an appeal to emotions and what was commonly celebrated as good, or sometimes just sycophancy towards the speaker because they had power that the listeners craved. She had so much truth to offer, yet it fell on deaf ears. She had so much truth, but the truth is feeble. The truth has no power on its own.
She began to feel dejected and hopeless. In time, it turned into a type of numbness. She’d hear people spout off things she knew to be false, but she’d just ignore them. Sometimes her pride would get the better of her, and she’d have to interject with the truth, but it was never heard. As she spoke, she’d see how the listener thought of a response, looked for holes in what she said and ways to argue around it, but they never actually listened to and contemplated what she told them. Eventually, she stopped speaking about what she saw at all. At least in her passivity and silence, she projected an indifference to wrongheadedness that bore the appearance of wisdom, but it was no true comfort.
Ava was a young adult by now, and she was in her third year of university. She’d get aggravated listening to arguments in class, as people with no real grasp on the subject that they were talking about got all riled up and forcefully asserted that what they believed was true. Still, she remained silent and, for the most part, unaffected. That was until she met a young man named “Logan.”
Logan had an incredibly fecund mind. When faced with a problem, he’d assess it and come up with solutions like some all-knowing automaton. It almost seemed unconscious, as if the answers were just being given to him, much like how her glasses functioned. He, however, had no such glasses, and no matter how remarkable his natural ability to discern truth was, it inevitably fell short of Ava’s. Nonetheless, she would get frustrated on his behalf, when she’d watch him quickly voice the best solutions to problems, recount far flung facts at a moment’s notice, and put forward wonderful ideas for whatever project was set before him — only to have others doubt their value. Luckily, she could appreciate his brilliance, and the two soon grew close.
They came to spend all their time together, and their minds became one in the way that two people’s minds do when they’re truly in love. They always seemed to have some intuitive sense of what the other was thinking. She felt closer to him than she had ever felt to anyone. She felt that she’d found her soulmate. There was only one thing she believed she couldn’t share with him. He was brilliant, by all accounts, but even he had his blind spots. He didn’t have the magic glasses; he didn’t even know they existed. He could never understand all she understood. He was the closest in the breadth of his awareness to anyone she had met, but there was still an expansive gulf between them. That intellectual separation was unbearable for her. At the very least, she had to try and tell him about the glasses.
She beckoned him to come sit with her one evening. She took a deep breath before beginning to talk again, and her voice quavered just slightly as she started to speak, but it was enough to make it so they both understood their mutual awareness of her nervousness. Thus, her apprehension transferred to him, before scarcely a word was a spoken. Both braced as she said, “I need to tell you a secret, and you’re probably not going to believe it, but I just hope you don’t think I’m crazy. I don’t want us to suffer through more build up, so I’ll just say it: The glasses that I have here, the ones that I wear every day, they have a sort of magic power that lets me see any truth when I look through them. Anything that is happening or has ever happened, anywhere in the world and even beyond, I can see when I look through these.”
If it weren’t for the unmistakable seriousness she said it with, he would’ve assumed it was a joke. Logan was taken aback to say the least. His mind ran through different emotions and thoughts: For a moment, he doubted everything and was terrified to think the woman he loved was actually insane. The following moment, he thought optimistically and figured he should humor her and investigate further. A second later, he wondered to himself, What if they’re actually magic glasses? He took a deep breath, and calmly said, “Let me try them on.”
She sank inside knowing that this meant he doubted what she claimed and that he’d base his belief on this test, this test which she knew was doomed to prove nothing. She explained, “I know it sounds totally unbelievable, and I would be hard-pressed to believe it myself, but I’m the only one that can use their ability. I’ve told a couple others and let them try before. It never works for other people. Please, just tell me you believe me, that you believe I’m not crazy.”
He forced out the words, “Of course, I believe you.” His eyes lost their light for a moment, as all eyes do when the speaker says something disingenuous. He continued, “I’d still like to try them though.” Reluctantly, she handed over the glasses, and he donned them.
In his mind, he still pondered if what she said was true, and immediately the glasses revealed to him all the scenes from her life, what she had seen, and what she tried to communicate but couldn’t. His eyes began to tear up as he witnessed how much she had suffered because of this accursed gift. He gave her a tight hug, full of vigor. The firmness of his embrace was enough to let her know that he knew. She had finally been seen. For the first time in her life, she wasn’t alone.
They talked of how difficult it must’ve been for her, and how even he had never realized the depth of her understanding. He said, looking down and shaking his head slowly all the while, “I’ve felt so certain in everything I thought I knew, even when arguing with you. There’s truly no way to ascertain what is beyond us. Ignorance really leaves no hints at all. To be ignorant of our ignorance is an infinite void of mind. Simultaneously, ego and the biases of the intellect combine to make us certain in our beliefs, though we may be so entirely lost. It’s all a joke.” But, just as he finished speaking, his attention was pulled from his reflections back to the awesome power he now had access to.
He told her that he wanted to explore the world through these new eyes, and he set about pondering a great many things, and silently asking all the questions he’d always been curious about. Hours flew by in near silence, with the exception of the occasional chuckle signaling disbelief, or the deep breath and radiant smile that accompanied some profound realization. Logan was mesmerized by his findings. Finally, he removed the glasses, rubbed his tired eyes, and laid back — a look of joy and exhaustion on his face. He turned to Ava to discuss some of what he saw.
They bonded over their awareness of so many profound and elusive truths. They seemed to grow closer and closer to each other as they exchanged enthusiastic nods of agreement while discussing topic after topic. Then, as he had done for some time, Logan raised another of his observations, but Ava’s face showed confusion. She said, “But that wasn’t what I saw at all.”
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